Students teaching students in Montgomery Elementary’s Cultural Club

North+Penn+High+School+students+team+up+with+Montgomery+Elementary+students+to+teach+Spanish+as+part+of+Montgomerys+Cultural+Club+initiative.+

Submitted photo

North Penn High School students team up with Montgomery Elementary students to teach Spanish as part of Montgomery’s Cultural Club initiative.

Students typically begin their Spanish, French, or German language studies in seventh or eighth grade. At Montgomery Elementary School, the fifth and sixth graders involved in the Cultural Club are exposed to different languages and cultures earlier than most. 

Mrs. Donna Chevoor, a fifth year teacher at Montgomery, became inspired to allow younger kids to get the cultural experience that isn’t always available at their ages.

“I was talking to another ESL teacher in the district and she had started a club similar to this one. I was really interested so I decided to make one at Montgomery,” Chevoor elaborated. “I tweaked it a little bit to fit the way I wanted the program to work… and that’s how it started.”

Introducing younger students to the wonders of different languages can be beneficial to them in the long run. Chevoor understands this, and does her best to expose her kids to what’s really out there for them to learn.

“I do it for fifth and sixth grade because I know starting in the middle school there are so many different clubs and they start to be introduced to languages, so I kind of wanted to get their feet wet,” Chevoor said. “Also I wanted to kind of branch out and get them to notice that there is a larger world out there other than just Lansdale, and a lot of things that they perceive are not really the truth.”

Also I wanted to kind of branch out and get them to notice that there is a larger world out there other than just Lansdale, and a lot of things that they perceive are not really the truth”

— Mrs. Donna Chevoor, Montgomery Elementary School teacher

Chevoor wanted to expand the Cultural Club by getting assistance from the high school language teachers. In this particular instance, she collaborated with Mrs. Brittany Atkiss, a Spanish teacher at North Penn, to help teach the kids to learn more about Spanish cultures. 

“[Mrs. Chevoor] had reached out to me, asking if the Spanish students could come down to her cultural club at some point. We signed up for two dates; the first in January and we go back in May,” Atkiss explained. 

Each month the cultural club focuses on a new topic to learn about. In January, they depicted the parts of Columbia.

“We had an opening lesson about where in the world did they think Columbia was. Then we looked at animals you might see in Columbia, food that might be in Columbia, and dancing,” Atkiss elaborated. 

They didn’t stop there. The Montgomery students explored a variety of other topics as well.

NPHS AP Spanish students work with Montgomery Elementary students (Submitted photo)

“One of the groups was in charge of teaching body parts, one was in charge of teaching colors, days of the week, and months… The Montgomery kids rotated between groups,” Atkiss said.

Using a more interactive and relevant approach in bringing awareness of Spanish-speaking countries to younger children ultimately portrays information more effectively. Sometimes it even requires teachers to step back and let others do the work. North Penn’s Spanish students filled those shoes and became the teachers for the day.

“[The children] were definitely more relaxed. Had I been trying to get them to do the worksheets, it would have been perceived differently than juniors and seniors doing it with them. They were way more open to working… You could just see the kids were having so much fun,” Atkiss said. “Being on the opposite end, being forced to be a teacher almost, it was an eye-opening experience for [the Spanish students] too. They did awesome.” 

Spanish 4 students, Laila Rihawi and Jordan Lawrence experienced this feeling as they were teaching the Montgomery students. They first-handedly felt the atmosphere change with them working with the kids rather than a teacher.

“It felt like we were actually having fun. It kind of becomes the dynamic where it’s like a little sibling and an older sibling kind of thing, and I know that if it were a teacher they would probably just be bored,” Rihawi 

“Being taught by somebody that you can actually speak to, it’s not so teacher driven which is just teaching teaching teaching, it’s more of a guide along kind of experience,” Lawrence added. “I would say being able to help the kids, and being someone they can actually talk to… I feel like it did help them.”

Relating to relevant ways of teaching younger students, using a topic that sparks their interest can also be effective. In this instance, the AP students used the popular children’s movie, Encanto.

I think that they went away with a positive experience of a new culture. I think they really enjoyed working with the high schoolers; you could see that the elementary school kids had giant smiles on their faces, and they were looking up to the older students”

— Mrs. Brittany Atkiss - NPHS Spanish teacher

“Bringing awareness to the culture that surrounds the movie (Encanto) and the people that they see in the movie, hopefully gives them a better understanding of the larger world,” Atkiss explained.  “I think that they went away with a positive experience of a new culture. I think they really enjoyed working with the high schoolers; you could see that the elementary school kids had giant smiles on their faces, and they were looking up to the older students. It was nice to see.”

Having different age groups from across the district come together to tackle a project really signifies the type of connections that can be made at North Penn and how much of a unit we’ve become. Atkiss and her Spanish students recognized this during their work.

“This is great for North Penn because it brings us all together…Just kind of making that connection so we’re a unified front rather than all the different buildings, it’s nice,” Atkiss explained.

“I think it’s really cool. North Penn is a very community based district, and having older kids with the younger kids and teaching them, it shows how involved North Penn is, and how it’s not completely teacher-run, but students really do a lot,” Rihawi added.

Working with older kids typically has a lasting impact on younger generations. On the flip side, one wouldn’t usually expect the older students to come away with more than a fun experience. Having the opportunity to work with the Montgomery students, however, left a good feeling resonating within Lawrence.

“I think it definitely had an impact on me because I had an interest in education before, and this kind of pushed it forward for me… Being able to do that in a classroom in front of kids it played into perspective for me that this is something that I could possibly do,” Lawrence remarked.

Along with being a teacher and mentor for the day, it seemed to mean a little more than that for the Cultural Club members.

As a kid you obviously look up to somebody and you want to become a role model for them… I think it’s definitely cool to be able to do that for the younger kids and I would heavily advise more people to get involved if they can”

— Jordan Lawrence, NPHS student

“As a kid you obviously look up to somebody and you want to become a role model for them… I think it’s definitely cool to be able to do that for the younger kids and I would heavily advise more people to get involved if they can,” Lawrence concluded.

The Spanish students aren’t finished just yet; they will go back to Montgomery in May for a Cinco de Mayo themed lesson that also focuses on the culture in Mexico. 

“I hope this is a program that we can grow and foster with different elementary schools in the district,” Atkiss concluded.